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December 14th, 2016

We Still Got the Beet

by Yael Ben-Chaim

As the sun sets earlier, the days get shorter, the nights get colder, and hibernation sounds increasingly appealing, some hardy Maryland vegetables find their moment to shine. One of these is the beet, a sweet root vegetable that can withstand the coldest Mid-Atlantic winters. At your next visit to the year-round farmers market near you, make sure to look out for the beet.

Beets can be eaten without producing any waste, as both the roots and the leaves of the beet can be consumed. When beets were first cultivated and discovered, only the greens were eaten. It wasn’t until the 1500’s when people began to eat the root, which is now considered the most palatable part of the vegetable. Previously, the root was not used for cooking but rather for medicines to heal painful disorders such as head and body aches. The biggest beet in the world was grown by a Dutchman and weighed over 156 pounds.

Beets lower blood pressure because of naturally occurring nitrates in the root. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body which help to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Beets also help to fight inflammation because they are a source of betaine, a nutrient that protects cells from environmental stress.

Beet greens contain more iron than spinach. Iron plays a part in strengthening the immune system to fight off diseases. Iron also helps to metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which give the body energy by removing carbon dioxide and transporting it to the lungs to exhale. Beet greens can be cooked like other greens, and taste great in smoothies.

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze from SimplyRecipes

Ingredients:

  • Two pounds red beets
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated organize zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line pan with aluminum oil
  • Rub beets with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place in oven, cover with foil.
  • Roast for one to two hours
  • Prepare balsamic glaze- in a small shallow sauté pan, add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Heat on high until vinegar has reduced to a sugar consistency.
  • Cut beets into bite-sized pieces when cool and pour over glaze. Stir in grated orange zest and add salt and pepper to taste.

 

About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.